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Wayward Penguin Captures New Zealand Hearts July 1, 2011
Images of New Zealand's 'Happy Feet'
Top: 'Happy Feet' pondering strange new surroundings before falling ill. Below: doctors monitoring its health following surgery.
A young emperor penguin that swam about 3,000 miles off course from Antarctica became only the second of the species to make it to New Zealand in recorded history.

Dubbed “Happy Feet” by the country’s media, the juvenile bird of indeterminate gender landed about 30 miles from Wellington.

But it soon apparently mistook sand on the beach for snow and ate it while suffering from heat exhaustion and dehydration.

Wildlife experts rushed the visitor to one of the country’s leading surgeons, who performed an endoscopy to remove the sand and pieces of driftwood from its stomach.

The recovering penguin is being housed in a chilled room with a bed of ice while experts, politicians and the public discuss whether it should stay in the country, be returned home to Antarctica or be shipped to a facility in California equipped to house it.

“When we have animals who are a long way from home like this, while it romantically might seem to be a great thing to return them to the wild, it's not always or necessarily the best thing to do for the individual,” said marine biologist Mark Orams.

Top photo: Ross Giblin, The Dominion Post
Bottom photo: 3 News